Salary may be a laughing matter

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While it is well known that humour is a powerful tool with which to defuse tension, build rapport and boost morale in the workplace, now it seems a good joke can also be effective in salary negotiations.

Job candidates who jokingly suggest an absurdly high salary are likely to receive more than those who do not make a pay-related joke, according to new research from the University of Idaho. And it’s not just extra pocket change either – the pay difference can be as much as 9%, the researchers found.

Psychologist Todd J Thorsteinson conducted the study which involved 206 university students. The group were asked to determine the starting salary of a hypothetical administrative assistant who was well qualified and had previously earned $29,000. The students came up with an average of $35,523 for candidates who kiddingly said they’d like to make $100,000, but just $32,463 for the others.

Why did it work? Thorsteinson suggested that “mentioning an extreme figure in jest can set a high ‘anchor’ for the final offer while minimising negative reactions from the employer.”

HR professionals would be well advised to be aware of this nefarious psychological effect and keep the ‘anchor’ where they want the anchor to be.


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